A minor rant and a big rave

At least we still have flowers for Valentine’s Day.

Flowers have left the building, as far as the Olympics are concerned. In Rio (2016), medalists were given little sculptures made of resin, polyresin, and PVC, because flowers were “not sustainable.” And this year, in Pyeongchang, the athletes are waving little stuffed animals (tigers) from the podium. There are symbolic reasons for the tiger choice, which make sense, and they are kind of cute (unlike Rio’s resin doodads). But I’m not buying the sustainability argument. Cut flowers are ephemeral. You enjoy them, they fade; they can be composted or even thrown on the ground to decompose. Nothing that’s produced and given en masse is going to do well on a sustainability smell test; my take is that flowers are no more guilty than most gifts. But they’re gone. It appears that London will be the last Olympics that came with bouquets, unless something changes. Thank god for Valentine’s Day, which is creating enough of a flowery atmosphere that I don’t mind so much. People need flowers in winter.

A flowery portrait

Count me among those with two big thumbs up for both of the Obama presidential portraits. You can read about them everywhere; here’s one place. I particularly like his. I was immediately charmed by the backdrop of foliage that artist Kehinde Wiley explains is studded with flowers that have personal significance for the former President. I am not sure what the greenery is; it looks like a cross between Bishop’s Weed and some really aggressive vine. Maybe someone here knows. To many, the backdrop is surprising, but if you look at other portraits by this artist, an ornate, patterned background of some type is almost always used. It is a formal device and I wouldn’t read that much into it except that it makes a lovely change from the usual blurred or nonexistent surroundings used for official portraiture. We have a big wall of Boston ivy that local photographers have used for portrait backdrops; it’s a nice look. I think so, anyway.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. I wish it were not so, but it’s impossible for many of us to look at the former president’s portrait and not see Homer Simpson disappearing into the shrubbery. Aside from that, it’s excellent; plants make most things better. Michelle Obama’s painting could use some — or anything really, to make the background less blank; the leafiness of her husband’s portrait accentuates that emptiness.

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